A Discussion of Stahlke’s 95 Thesis – Part 1

Earlier this week Dr. Les Stahlke – the consultant hired by LCC’s CCMS to assist it with restructuring the current District / Synod bodies into one overall whole – posted a document titled “95 Theses for the Re-formation of Lutheran Church-Canada” to the Synod 2017 Convention site. You can read the original article here, and I’ve saved a copy of the thesis PDF document here.

Overall the document is a good read though there’s a couple concepts that could use some additional fleshing out which I’ll cover in this article. The details and implications will be the subject of the next article.

The overall division of these posts are:

  • The Establishment of Authority (Part 2)
  • LCC and its Operation (Part 2)
  • A Sudden Change in Course (Part 3)
  • The Working Group Proposal vs the Articles and Bylaws (Part 3)
  • Questions, Questions, and more Questions (Part 4)
  • Closing Thoughts (Part 4)

The first topic I’ll discuss is the doctrine of the “Two Kingdoms” – the earthly kingdom (otherwise known as the kingdom of the left) and God’s heavenly kingdom (otherwise known as the kingdom of the right).

The kingdom of the left pertains to the civil authority established by God and to whom all people are subject to in one way or another. Romans 13:1-7 describes it thus:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The kingdom on the right is God’s heavenly kingdom that is not of this world but of all eternity. In the end, the kingdom of the right will call everyone to account as Romans 14:11-12 states:

for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

The LCMS has a bible study with additional references here.

Dr. Stalke also uses the term “Two Tables of Moses” – what this refers to is the artificial division of the Ten Commandments into two sections or tables. The First Table pertains to our relationship with God while the Second Table pertains to our relationship with each other.

The First Table is composed of the first three commandments, which are:

The First Commandment – You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The Second Commandment – You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

The Third Commandment – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The balance of the ten commandments address our relationship with each other and are called the Second Table:

The Fourth Commandment – Honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.

The Fifth Commandment – You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

The Sixth Commandment – You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

The Seventh Commandment – You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

The Eighth Commandment – You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

The Ninth Commandment – You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

The Tenth Commandment – You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.

These commandments and definitions have been copied verbatim from the Concordia Publishing House website.

Finally, a subject Dr. Stahlke gives great emphasis to is that of accountability, or the nature and manner  people are held responsible for their stewardship in discharging their responsibility.

In support of this position Dr Stahlke cites Proverbs 3:11-12

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

and Hebrews 12:5-11 –

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The subject of accountability is a particularly important one for the body of Christ in general and LCC in particular because wherever you have power you’ll have people that’ll want it for their own ends or who may fall astray because they want to do something that seems good on the surface but isn’t good for the people who are trusting them.

Those who want it for their own purposes in order to impose their will on others and hide their mischief will want to work on the dark and so avoid being held accountable for their deeds. A faithful steward, on the other hand, will accept if not demand accountability so that they’ll always be found to be the faithful servant walking in accordance with God’s will and His ways.

John 3:19-21 describes the difference perfectly:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

An epic and sad example of failure of accountability can be found in LCC’s ABC District when the CEF leadership decided sticking to its knitting of providing loans to churches and schools wasn’t “thinking big” enough and ventured into what could only be called a speculative business / real estate development project. Over the years this little venture consumed over $50M in depositor funds, decimated both the life savings and trust of a number of members, brought untold pain and suffering for the membership, and may, in the end, result in the demise of LCC itself.

After the CEF situation became public the ABC BOD created a Task Force to find out “what happened”, and the results of their work was published to http://www.abcreview.ca. Copies of the report were also posted to Sola Gratia and you can read the postings and discussion here and here.

Next – some analysis and discussion.

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